Archive for April, 2008

The Wisdom Of Dogs

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Before getting going to work this morning, Ranger came to me at the desk as I was moppily Velcro’ing my bike shoes, occupied by the sad news of the day.

“Dood,” she said with a ball in her mouth so it made her sound kinda retarded. “Lesgahp lay feshin gahbah kyard.”

“What?”

She dropped the tennis ball to the hardwood where it thumped twice and was still.

“I said: Let’s go play fetch in the backyard, duh!” She picked up the ball again in her mouth and snorted.

“Oh. Maybe when I get home tonight.”

“Cuh mon! Jussa fyoom intz. Ill may kyafeel burr.”

“Make me what?”

She spat the ball out again and it rolled to the ottoman.

“Feel better! Gah!”

Who was I to argue:

A Death Over Our Heads

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Susan called me at work yesterday afternoon. There was a nervousness to her voice that I picked up immediately and I feared one of our animals had been hurt.

“Joe’s passed away,” she told me. Joe was her tenant, the last of the three renters who occupied the house when she bought it in 1999. He lived upstairs since 1986. She said Joe’s brother was there and there were men in white coats and gloves and by the time I got home at 6 p.m. his body had been removed and all looked like nothing had happened.

I last saw Joe when I came down to the garage to help get the rest of the groceries out of Susan’s car Saturday afternoon. He was on the sidewalk talking with another man I didn’t recognize. I said hi to Joe as I started back up the front steps with the bags and he nodded back at me. Joe was HIV positive and in his 60s and in the last couple years his physical bearing had deteriorated significantly to the point of Susan and I wondering how much longer it would be until he needed hospice care. He moved slower and more stooped whenever I saw him and as of a few weeks ago I noticed a delivery of oxygen tanks standing outside his front door.

Joe’s brother said to Susan that he was told by the attendants that the death looked to be a result of natural causes and that given the condition of the body he may have expired sometime over weekend. Susan said she could smell the decomposition as the whitecoats struggled getting him out of the house. His brother told her he’d opened up the windows and turned on the air conditions to help air the place out. It’s weird to think of Joe’s body right over our heads for two days. Maybe more. And that he might have died while we sat watching television or grilling in the backyard.

Apparently, he was discovered earlier in the day by his weekly housekeeper. Whatever her reaction might have been it was enough to alert our neighbor Ralph across the street who phoned the police and Joe’s brother. The police came, as did the coroner. I’m guessing the whitecoats were mortuary personnel. Ralph told Joe’s brother that when he last talked to Joe he’d mentioned having trouble breathing.

I didn’t know much about Joe in the almost four-years Susan and I have been together here. The extent of our contacts pretty much involved passing each other on the way in or out. Our longest conversations involved him complimenting the Halloween or Christmas decorations or telling me something that wasn’t working properly. I knew he could be a pain in the butt, but he was the type of person that would vent his frustrations in a letter or an email or a voicemail message about Ranger’s barking or a malfunctioning heater other such matters and then follow up with an apology the next day. Most months that he paid his rent, he’d adorn the envelopes with a happy face. He’d worked for the city painting out graffiti. He had a pizza delivered Friday night. He drove an increasingly dinged-up Dodge Neon. He walked with a cane. He like the colors we painted the house last year. On occasions recently he took to listening to the TV with the volume way up. There’s an old Univega bike of his down in the basement.

Joe played a part in Susan and I meeting. He’d taken the picture of her that she’d posted to her match.com profile. It was taken from above, with her looking up into the camera and the light vibrantly illuminating her blond hair. In one of his missives sometime after I moved in during the summer of 2004 expressing his outrage over a rent increase or similar matter he even took a modicum of credit for our relationship because of that snapshot as if it somehow should exempt him from such things. I’m pretty sure he said he was sorry for the outburst shortly thereafter.

Joe’s brother said he hopes to have the place cleared out in a week or so. I can only imagine what a chore that will be packing up and moving 22 years worth of stuff, emotionally as well as physically. And in the meantime, Susan and I are obviously shellshocked not only at the reality check that comes with death, but one that happened so close to home.

Rest in peace, Joe.

Siriusly 2: Little Ditty ‘Bout Babs ‘N Dianne

Monday, April 28th, 2008

About a month ago I probably glazed most eyes over writing about the concerns I have regarding the proposed satellite radio acquisition of XM by its rival Sirius. I won’t bore you again with the specifics other than to say that as a long-time Sirius subscriber I’m still just as wary of the rumors that the individual companies’ existing hardware might not accommodate the combined programming of the new single entity and thus require some sort of cash outlay for a new radio.

The vague explanation that remains on the Sirius Merger website coupled  to the silence that’s greeted my specific correspondence to Sirius on the topic has served to only increase my apprehension, and prompted me to write my U.S. senators about it.

I heard first back from Barbara Boxer whose platitude-loaded form letter pretty much boiled down to “this is an important issue,” and “thanks for writing to me.” Thanks for nothing, Babs.

Would that Sen. Feinstein had been so generic. Instead her response blew me away with how much she — or more specifically one of her staffers — blew it in misreading my letter as one expressing wholehearted support of the proposed merger:

Dear Mr. Campbell,

Thank you for writing regarding your support for the proposed merger between Sirius and XM satellite radio. I appreciate your taking the time to share your views.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission share concurrent jurisdiction over merger enforcement. It is their duty to carefully review, among other things, the potential implication of mergers on consumers and businesses. This is a crucial function of both agencies and it is often a very lengthy process.

Although mergers do not require congressional approval, the Senate Judiciary Committee has oversight jurisdiction over mergers and held a hearing last year to consider the implications of the proposed merger. Although I was unable to attend that hearing, I have been following this potential merger closely because, if it takes place, it could have a major effect on the media market in this country. On one hand we would go from a market with two satellite radio companies, competing fiercely to develop their content and attract subscribers, to just one satellite radio company. This could limit the choices available to consumers. On the other hand, I recognize that XM and Sirius have raised concerns that there is the potential for both companies to go out of business if the merger does not go forward, leaving the satellite radio market void. Please be assured that I will keep your support for the merger in mind should the Senate consider these issues further.

Once again, thank you for writing and I hope you will continue to write to me about issues of importance to you. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, DC staff at (202) 224‑3841.

Best regards.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

My “support” of the merger? Of course I WTF’d an email right back at Dianne:

Senator Feinstein,

Did your staff even READ my letter? I ask this with pointed incredulity because you reference my “support” of the Sirius/XM merger twice in your response when in fact my letter to you expressed the reservations I have regarding the acquisition of XM by Sirius and how it might make current subscribers’ existing equipment obsolete, thus necessitating costly purchases of new hardware in order to take advantage of the new hybrid programming.

If you or your staff even bother to read this I only hope it’s clear how absolutely disappointing  it is to be so grossly misinterpreted.

Sincerely,
William Campbell

Gridlock? What Gridlock?

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

This eastward stretch of Venice Boulevard I video’d during last Friday’s afternoon rush hour demonstrates why bikes rule. Just make sure to keep a sharp eye for those pesky leftturninfrontofyou’ers!

Miles Of Milestones

Friday, April 25th, 2008

spbike.jpg

I pedaled past my 2,000th mile this year with today’s bike commute (that included a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity and seal up a previous root canal retreatment… that’s right: I not only go for bike rides after riding bikes, but I even bike to and from unpleasant things). My annual mileage total now stands at 2,007.

That particular number has significance because it was my overall mileage goal for 2007. Further, I achieved that goal ahead of schedule in September of last year, going on to surpass 3,100 miles by December 31. Further further, I’ve done in less than the first five months of 2008 what it took me more than 9.5 months to do last year. Further further further, should all go well and according to plan I stand a rock solid chance of catching this year’s goal of 3,000 miles by somewhere around the middle of June — at which time, I’ll have to recalibrate to a new year-end number, dare I say… hmmmmm — 5,000?

I dare. But first let’s say hey to 3K.

Putting The “Hell” In Helicopter

Friday, April 25th, 2008

It was only later that I learned that barely a half-block away from us this EARLY this Friday morning some kid mistook the gas pedal for the brakes and plowed down a driveway and through a converted garage where his dad was sleeping, pinning him injured beneath the vehicle.

I’m pretty sure everyone involved is going to be OK, but at 5:30 a.m. the only thing I knew was that some loud ass news helicopter decided to park itself a couple hundred feet over our house for more than 45 minutes as the breaking new story “developed.”

Here’s what 30 seconds of it looked and sounded like from our backyard at 5:36 a.m.:

Coyote Crossing

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

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(click to triplify)

Atop the stretch of uphill in Griffith Park that cyclists generally refer to as the “roller coaster” (where Griffith Park Drive meets Mt. Hollywood Drive), my friend Stephen and I caught our breath around 8 p.m. and observed this first of two coyotes pass by us. Generally I’d delete a photo of this nonquality but I liked how it pretty much captured the elusive mystery of the wild canines against the flowing streetscape.

If I were king of L.A. I’d decree coyotes to be the city’s official animal.

FYI: Yeah, that’s right. After bike commuting to work across L.A. and back, just for fun I went for a bike ride.